Max Verstappen held off a charging Lewis Hamilton to win the United States Grand Prix on Sunday and extend his Formula One world championship lead to 12 points.
Verstappen, in a Red Bull, claimed his first victory at the Circuit of the Americas in front of 140,000 fans. Mercedes star Hamilton, the reigning world champion, had cut the deficit in the race to under a second on the penultimate lap but could not find a way through the Dutchman’s impressive defence. Sergio Perez completed the podium for Red Bull ahead of Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. The victory by 1.33 seconds was Verstappen’s eighth of the season at a track where Hamilton had won five times.
“I think I’ve aged about 25 years in that race,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “I really didn’t think we were going to hang on.” Hamilton admitted Red Bull were stronger. “Max did a great job today,” he said on the podium.
“It was such a tough race. I got a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day, they just had the upper hand this weekend and we couldn’t really have asked for more.” Hamilton, starting second on the grid, stunned pole-sitter Vertsappen at the start. The Briton edged ahead at the first turn and stayed in front for 10 laps until Red Bull pulled off what they hoped would be a tactical coup.
“He’s sliding a lot and I have a lot more pace,” Verstappen told his team over the radio. By calling in the Dutchman, who had a sluggish Hamilton in his sights, for an early pit stop, he was able to under-cut the champion. By the time Hamilton had pitted and reappeared, Verstappen had constructed a 6.7-second lead. “We pulled the trigger early, but Max is doing a good job,” Horner told Sky Sports from the pit wall.
“It’s like a game of chess this race. You can rest assured there’s not much in it between the teams.” Hamilton consistently chipped away at the lead and by half-distance in the 56-lap race, he had slashed the deficit to 3.3 seconds.